While visitors and locals alike enjoy the sight of colourful balloons overhead, many do not know about the more competitive side of the event, the Challenge itself. Ballooning CEO Adam Barrow explained the importance of the competition in the world of competitive ballooning.
“The number of tasks and the variation of the tasks we fly are in line with other competitions. We try to use this as a training and practice event for the Australian competitors who are going to Northam in Western Australia for our national championships,” said Adam.
“We had 21 competitors, which was a great turnout given we have lost our international balloons this year. The competition itself involves six flights across the mid-week period which is split up into 23 tasks. It was very competitive with great scoring conditions and weather for competition ballooning.”
The Challenge is seen as a jumping off point for balloonists. Adam cites Nicola Scaife, who won the competition in 2009 and subsequently went on to win the Women’s World Championship twice.
This year saw the current number one ranked pilot, Nicola’s husband, Matthew Scaife take out first place, with Nicola securing second place. While punters could have predicted first and second, third place was taken by a dark horse, 23 year old up-and-comer from the Yarra Valley, Eddie Saunders. Eddie beat out national champion Sean Kavanagh, who placed forth and almost knocked out Nicola, coming in just a few points behind her.
“I think it is fair to say it was a raging success,” Adam said. “Everybody knows it is a fantastic place to fly and this year it was especially welcoming.”